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Soundtrack review: Grandma (Joel P. West – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Grandma (Joel P. West – 2015)


Elle has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend when Elle’s granddaughter Sage unexpectedly shows up needing $600 bucks before sundown. Temporarily broke, Grandma Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash as their unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets. This is the plot of “Grandma”, a different and more figurative type of road movie. The score was written by Joel P. West

Somehow I expected the minimalistic and light sound this score welcomes me with. I guess after seeing so many movies and listening to so many scores, this is the way I would imagine writing the music for a story like the one at hand. It doesn’t need something heavier or more intrusive. The kind of score that Joel P West wrote makes me reflect and think about the good things in life. It has that road trip feeling with the guitar centered pieces and somehow I know things are going to be alright when I listen to this score. I think there will be a happy end. The music sort of guides me towards this conclusion with its hopeful riffs (especially the pieces written by “The tree ring”) and playful inserts.

I know where to put this score and when to listen to it. This is your typical, lovely Sunday afternoon relaxing score. It’s sunny and optimistic and it also introduces me to a composer confident enough on his craft to pull this off. To me this is the kind of score that is very intimately connected to the one who wrote it. I think Joel West put quite a lot of his soul in this one; otherwise it couldn’t have sounded so honest and warm.

Me I’m a guy whose more introverted and reflective and I will always cherish and connect to a score like this better than with a blockbuster release. Sometimes those are way too busy when all I need is a guy and his guitar just chiming away random thoughts. There’s nothing dramatic or overbearing, there’s nothing pathetic or exaggerated. This is the kind of music that evokes normal people with normal feelings I can relate to. And when there is the bonus of a cue like “The ogre” with its soft electronic insert which brings a charming gust of nostalgia to me, I am even happier.

I really enjoyed ”Grandma”. I will keep it close and return to it. I wish this kind of innocence and honesty was more present in film music today.

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 14 / 20

Album excellence:70%


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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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